Horses in a snow storm

Struck by Lighting in Kazakhstan

HUNT REPORT

HUNTER: Cory Glauner
TRIP TAKEN: Ibex Hunting in Kazakhstan

September 4-14, 2023

When it comes to the world of mountain hunting, Kazakhstan stands as a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by International hunters. Nestled in the heart of mid-Asia, this vast and diverse country offers a unique mountain hunting experience that is second to none. Kazakhstan is a land of breathtaking contrasts, boasting an array of landscapes that range from the majestic peaks of the Tien Shan and Altai Mountains to the expansive steppes and pristine lakes. This geographical diversity provides the perfect habitat for the remarkable mid-Asian Ibex, Maral stag (Tien Shan Wapiti), Eurasian wild boar and Siberian roe deer.

Struck by Lighting in Kazakhstan

Lightning Strikes Twice on a mid-Asian Ibex Hunting Adventure with Cory Glauner

We were hunting with our flagship outfitter in Kazakhstan who offers a great combo hunt of Maral and Ibex. Hunting from horseback, we hunt the vast hunting grounds in search of the finest trophies. While your trophy Maral stag can often be harvested with ease, merely a short walk or drive from the lodge, Ibex hunting is typically more difficult. There were three hunters in the group: Me, Glen Eberle, the owner of Eberlestock, Frank Fackovec, a very accomplished hunter who is close to earning the coveted World Conservation and Hunting Award. Both Glen and Frank were doing a Maral/Ibex Combo. I was only hunting Ibex, but helped Adam, the outfitter on both of their maral hunts.

Maral Stag Hunting

We started the week hunting Maral stags in the lower country around the lodge.

On the first evening of the hunt, the guides saddled the horses and took Frank and I up a long ridge just up from the lodge to look for maral. I’ve been around horses my entire life and I’ve gotta admit I was skeptical of these little things and those saddles looked terribly uncomfortable. I was wrong on both counts. Those horses are TOUGH and the saddles were actually nice. We rode up some steep country in record time. It would have killed our horses back home, and these things weren’t even breathing that hard. Crazy.

That night we glassed up a few bulls, one of them very nice, but nothing that we had time to get to. Frank had just had a total knee replacement just four months earlier, so big hikes just weren’t in the cards for him. We glassed until dark, heard a few bugle/roars and headed back down to the lodge with a plan for the next morning.

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Up at 3:00 AM and in the saddle by 4:00, we made a move up a steep draw.

Even though we couldn’t verbally communicate with the guides, I knew exactly what was going on and I completely approved. The lead guide, Bearakbul (I’m positive that I didn’t spell his name right) made the exact moves that I would have. Hunter sign language is universal, and if you combine that with a little intuition and a desire to learn, communication was fairly easy even when our interpreter Assan wasn’t with us. Sometimes just a nod and body language can tell you exactly what someone is thinking.

Just below the saddle, we tied up the horses and hiked up to the top, sneaking over the saddle just at very first light. Our timing was impeccable, and there was a big bull just 200 yards away. We’re talking BIG. Unfortunately, we made too much noise going over the top and he spooked before Frank could get a shot.

SIDENOTE: I do fully realize that I should be calling them stags, but bull just feels better because they resemble elk so closely. So, I hereby retain the right to call them what I want. Do with that what you will.

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Fortunately we almost immediately found a second big bull on the skyline.

This bull wasn’t as big, but he dang sure wasn’t a slouch, that’s for sure. Frank got settled in while Adam got the range and helped him with the dope on his rifle. I’m trying to act like I know what I’m talking about here, but I’m not a long range shooter…I need to go to a shooting class. It was something around 700 yards, I can’t remember exactly because while they’re getting set up, I was busy trying to get my spotting scope on him and my phone mounted with my brand new MagView phone adapter to take some video.

Frank’s first shot hit the bull right in the nuts. No kidding. Right smack in the sack.

He ran down the hill a bit, and that’s when things started getting a bit chaotic. I thought he was going down because he was acting weird, spinning around down the mountain…and who could blame him, he’d just been shot in the nuts?! He made his way down to a wallow and I was able to keep the video on him the whole time and talked them back onto him again.

Frank and Adam discussed/argued a bit about a new dope adjustment, and I thought this whole thing was going to fall apart, but the bull was just laying in the wallow. It felt like they were taking forever…seriously it took forever. I was stressed, and there was a miss….or possibly two, but Frank ended up getting dialed in and made an absolutely beautiful shot. I honestly didn’t think it was going to happen. We were all excited, and relieved.

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We worked our way over to the bull, took pictures, ate some lunch and drank some chai (tea).

I helped the guides position the bull where they could cut him up and they decided to head down to the lodge and come back later that day for the meat. We all mounted up and Bearakbul took the bull’s head, put in front of him on his horse and rode down off the mountain with it. Now when I say down the mountain, I mean down the mountain. It was STEEP. In fact, I led my horse down, not because I was scared, but because I’ve just always led my horses down steep country like that. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve hunted with horses my entire life. Despite the stress of the morning, it turned out to be a great experience in an amazing place with awesome people.

*We did kill one more maral, but that’s not entirely my story to tell. Stay tuned…

Ibex Hunting

Now that the Maral were out of the way it was time to go Ibex hunting.

Ibex hunting in Kazakhstan runs from late August through November. My ibex hunt took place during early September because two of they guys in the group I was hunting with were also hunting Maral stags. Even though my hunt was early in the season, it was still crucial to have the appropriate mountain hunting gear. You’ll likely be hunting at or near 13,000 feet, and on top of that (pun intended), Kazakhstan’s terrain can be challenging. Be sure to bring high quality hunting clothing, sturdy (broken in) hiking boots, a good pack, trekking poles, high-quality optics and plenty of patience. I wanted to bowhunt, but it’s illegal in Kazakhstan so I took my .300 WSM instead for the first time in years.

The country we would be hunting ibex in was much higher than where the maral hang out.

We rode the horses out of the lodge and up the gravel road about 5 miles or so where we stopped to glass up into some high country. Within minutes we had spotted four different bands, but the were too far away to tell if there were any good billies. It was a pretty easy ride to get up above the timberline, which took probably an hour or so. Then we were in county that most sane people would tie up the horses and walk from there. Not us though! We rode those tough little horses all the way to the top, which was just over 13,000 feet.

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We spent the day up in the high country, but couldn’t find any ibex.

We would sneak up over a ridge and glass a basin, then move on to the next, and the next…nothing. It was getting to be late in the afternoon and I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen that day. We sat down and had a lunch of horse meat, cheese, fruit and chai, then moved to the last basin to have a look.

Just when we got to the top of the ridge a snowstorm blew in and we couldn’t see, so we huddled up as best we could just below the top of the ridge. Every time the snow would let up, I’d walk up to the top and try to glass into the bowl on the other side. I had my EXO pack covered in a little tarp, so I picked it up and put it on, grabbed my rifle and hiked to the top. There was a little peak about 80 yards to my right that was probably 30 yards higher than the ridgeline that I was standing on, but other than that I was on top of the world as far as the eye could see. The view was spectacular.

As soon as I slung my rifle over my shoulder I felt what I thought were ant or bee stings on my side. I thought that maybe some ants had gotten on my pack and were biting me, so I took it off, lifted up my shirt and there was nothing there. Weird. Hindsight makes all of this 20/20, but in the moment I couldn’t figure out what it was.

I put my pack back on again, slung my rifle over my shoulder and glassed until the snow moved back in and I stood up and turned around to walk back down off the ridge to wait it out again. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a huge, foot wide lightning bolt come down out of the snow and sizzle the top of that peak above me. Then it struck again and a smaller bolt about as big around as my arm (it was white), reached out from the main blue bolt and hit the top of my rifle. I remember seeing it go down my side along the rifle and it felt like my entire body was attacked by bees, stinging me everywhere.

I thought that I immediately set down my rifle and ran down to the guys below, but they said that I stood there stunned for quite awhile and they had to yell at me to get me to respond. I don’t remember that at all. As soon as I came to though, I did set my rifle on the ground and stumble down to them. The stinging continued for a few minutes, but there wasn’t a mark on me. I was good to go and pretty happy to still be breathing.

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Within an hour of being struck by lightning, I was blessed to take this beautiful ibex. What an incredible experience!

During a break in the storm, we spotted a bachelor herd with some nice billies in it and formulated a ridiculous plan that required perfect execution.

Frank Fackovec and I were both hunting, so he and most of the guides made a stalk during another snowstorm. Meanwhile, I moved up to what I thought would be their escape route after Frank made a shot.

After he made a beautiful shot (that we got on video), the billies started heading my way, but I couldn’t see them because a blizzard had moved back in. All of a sudden a billy popped up into view just yards from me and launched off of the cliff before I even had time to react.

I quickly scrambled up to where I would have a shot if another one used the same route, and here came another one. Same thing, he was there and gone in less than 2 seconds and I made a split-second decision to pass. Then passed another and the next one. It was happening so fast and I hoped I was making the right calls. The next one that popped up I thought I recognized as one of the bigger ones in the group and I shot as he was in mid-air leaping off of the cliff and out of my life forever. I didn’t see the impact and there was no reaction, but it was only like a 50-yard shot…. probably less. How could I possibly miss?!

Another big one came through, but I didn’t dare shoot in case I hit the other one. I was sweating bullets as I made my way over to look down over the cliff, and there he was. Down. What a relief!

Turns out he was the biggest billy in the group. Lightning struck twice.

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My Takeaways from Hunting in Kazakhstan

Be Ready for Long Range Shooting.

I found both the maral and ibex to be pretty wary, and getting into range wasn’t an easy task in the open, rocky country they live in. More than being wary, the country is just HUGE, so you are often shooting from one ridge to another. I wish you could bowhunt there because maral hunting would totally be doable with a bow. You could also get it done with ibex, but it would my much more difficult.

Great Trophy Quality.

Kazakhstan’s Ibex population is renowned for producing some of the world’s most impressive trophies, and we saw some monster billies. Some of the maral stags we saw were jaw dropping. The two bull we took were great, but we saw MUCH bigger ones on the mountain, but even at that they ended up being the new SCI #10 and #14 bulls in the world!

Kazakhstan Culture.

A trip to Kazakhstan offers more than just the thrill of the hunt. It provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich Kazakh culture. You can expect warm hospitality, traditional cuisine, and a chance to connect with the local communities, adding depth to your adventure.

Outfitter Evaluation

How would you rate your trip overall?

Absolutely incredible hunt. There’s not much they could do to make it any better.

How was your guide?

The guides were great, and it was hugely helpful that there was an interpreter hunting with us who know good English.

How was your lodging?

Amazing, remote facilities, they spare no expense to make sure you are comfortable.

How was the food?

Great, local cuisine. If I have a complaint, there was too much food. I came away from a mountain hunt and had gained weight.

How was your outfitters communication?

Great.

How physically demanding was your trip?

Moderate. I can’t imagine an “easier” mid-Asian hunt. The horses and using the lodge as base camp made it a much more cushy experience than I expected.

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My Conclusion

This was an outfitter vetting trip.

I went on this hunt to determine whether we (Outdoors International) should use them in the future as a suggestion to clients looking for a mid-Asian hunt. The determination is a resounding yes! We highly recommend this hunt.

Ibex hunting in Kazakhstan is an unparalleled adventure that combines the thrill of the hunt with the beauty of the country’s diverse landscapes. If you’re seeking an unforgettable adventure, look no further than Kazakhstan. Prepare for a journey that will test your skills, immerse you in a unique culture, and reward you with the trophy of a lifetime. I also highly suggest adding a maral stag to your hunt, I wish that I had.

So, why wait? Embark on your Ibex hunting expedition in Kazakhstan and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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Cory Glauner Founder, CTO
With a background in web development, online marketing as well as years of experience as a hunting guide and outfitter, Cory Glauner is the founder of Outdoors International.